Almost all inverter powered cabins, work places, and living spaces are configured for general lighting. Presently, LED (light emitting diode) lamps remain the most efficient for light output and electrical efficiency compared to other technologies like Compact Florescent (CFL) and super bright halogen lamps. Recent advances in higher output LED lighting technology, combined surface mounting construction techniques have produced lower cost and wider varieties of LED lighting solutions. So, what’s new in reasonably low cost efficient LED lighting? LED tubes – yes, tubes that replace florescent tubes. They are available in many configurations: different lengths, wattage, clear or frosted, and color (warm white, cool white, daylight white). Some LED tubes are specifically designed as “grow” lights for indoor plant propagation.
What are the advantages of LED tube lights compared to florescent tubes?
1. Very long life.
2. More rugged than glass tubes.
3. Use half the power for the same light output.
4. Wide range of available power - 85 to 265 volts AC (no ballast) or direct replacement in existing fixtures (with ballast).
5. No mercury hazard, LED tubes do not contain mercury, all florescent tubes contain mercury.
Caution – select the correct tube lamp if you already have the florescent lamp fixture.
Replacement tube LEDs have traditional two pins at each end that fit into standard fixtures. However, be aware that LED tubes that are direct replacements use existing ballasts. No fixture changes are needed.
More commonly, there are also standard length LED tubes require electrically bypassing or removal of existing ballasts so 110 volts are directly wired to the ends of the tubes. With these tubes, both pins at each tube end are wired together. Never install these tubes in standard ballast fixtures because a ballast short circuit will occur. These tubes commonly accept voltages from 85 to 265 volts AC making them directly usable with 110 or 220 volts AC.
Some LED tubes have ends that rotate. So, why have tube ends that rotate?
LED tubes differ from florescent tubes in their light pattern. Florescent tubes distribute light 360 degrees around the axis of the tube while LED tubes focus light 180 degrees along the axis. If the lamp fixture has downward light distribution, no lamp rotation is needed. If the lamp fixture has downward and side light distribution, a tube with rotating ends is better because it can be rotated to provide downward and side light.
If you are installing new lighting and plan to use tube LEDs that do not use ballasts, there are new lamp fixtures that do not have ballasts. An alternative is to use surplus florescent fixtures and remove the ballasts.
A few words about halogen lamps.
They lamps are very bright and very hot. Most vehicle headlamps are halogen, some AC lamps are halogen and they produce more light than conventional incandescent bulbs. They can be dimmed, and are considered energy efficient lighting.
Here are a few facts about halogen lamps technology.
They burn so hot that there is a law that requires “containment” of the bulb. Metal screen, glass or some other containment method prevents direct touching of the bulb to prevent skin burns. Another reason is that any moisture or finger oils can cause the bulb form a hot spot that melts the glass and cause the halogen gas (under pressure) to explode. Exploding bulbs, if not contained can cause fires.
So why are halogen bulbs used in vehicle headlights? Halogen bulbs last longer and are much brighter than conventional incandescent lamps. An important feature about halogen is that the bulbs do not darken with use as do conventional incandescent bulbs. Halogens stay bright because any metal vapor that escapes from the white hot bulb filament recombines with the filament when the lamp cools. Conventional incandescent lamps darken because the vaporized filament metal coats the inside of the lamp glass thereby blocking light.
LED tube developments for inverter users is important. For example, a 4-foot long LED tube uses 17 to 20 watts at 110 volts AC. Using a Wagan power inverter with 90 percent efficiency to power a 20 watt 4 foot long LED tube only draws 2 amps from a 12 volt battery. That's a huge gain in light output for a small battery drain.